In Review

Rugby World Cup quarter-final: Wales vs. France preview, predictions, team news, starting XVs, TV, UK time

Wales make late change with Owen Watkin replacing Jonathan Davies

Wales vs. France 

  • What: Rugby World Cup quarter-final  
  • When: Sunday 20 October  
  • Where: Oita Stadium, Oita, Japan  
  • UK start time: 8.15am  
  • TV coverage: live on ITV 

Wales head coach Warren Gatland has been forced to make a late change to his starting XV after centre Jonathan Davies was ruled out with a knee injury.

Owen Watkin steps up to replace Davies and will partner Hadleigh Parkes in the centre. Leigh Halfpenny takes Watkin’s spot on the bench.

There had also been injury doubts over fly-half Dan Biggar and winger George North. The duo picked up knocks in last week’s brutal 29-17 win over Fiji, but are passed fit to take their place in Oita.

Positive vibes

“We’re in a good place and we’re really positive about the way we prepared,” said Gatland. “We’re very focused on wanting to go out there and stay in this tournament.”

Two of the starting XV - Alun Wyn Jones and North - appeared in the 9-8 defeat by France in the semi-final of the 2011 Rugby World Cup. 

For Jones, captaining the side from the second-row, it will be his 141st Test match, a tally bettered in international rugby only by Richie McCaw (148 caps) and Sergio Parisse (142).

North forms part of a formidable back three, alongside fellow wing Josh Adams - the tournament’s joint top try scorer - and full-back Liam Williams.

Fragile France

In contrast, Wales are up against a relatively inexperienced French team with Maxime Medard the only survivor of the 2011 tournament. 

They have some young talent in Antoine Dupont, Romain Ntamack and Damian Penaud, but they’re badly coached and poorly organised.

Wales have beaten France seven times in their past eight meetings and last time the sides met was in last season’s Six Nations when Wales overturned a 16-0 deficit in Paris to win 24-19. 

It was a match that characterised France, a side incapable of playing 80 minutes of intense, precise rugby. 

That is unlikely to change on Sunday even taking into account their two-week rest after the cancellation of last weekend’s final pool match against England because of Typhoon Hagibis.

The French side are neither physically fit enough or mentally strong enough to resist Wales, and if Gatland’s side play with the same intensity that they did against Australia in their opening pool game then their victory will be emphatic.

Gatland didn’t sound that worried at the press conference when discussing Sunday’s opponents, saying: “We’ve won seven of the last eight games against them. They’ve always been close games but we go in with a lot of belief and a lot of self confidence.”

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How to watch on TV in the UK

The first quarter-final on Sunday, and third of the weekend, is live on ITV. Coverage of Sunday’s clash in Oita begins at 7.30am (UK time) and the match starts at 8.15am. 

Sunday’s other last-eight encounter sees host nation Japan take on South Africa in Tokyo (11.15am).

Confirmed teams 

Wales starting XV
  • 15. Liam Williams, 14. George North, 13. Owen Watkin, 12. Hadleigh Parkes, 11. Josh Adams, 10. Dan Biggar, 9. Gareth Davies; 8. Josh Navidi, 7. Justin Tipuric, 6. Aaron Wainwright, 5. Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4. Jake Ball, 3. Tomas Francis, 2. Ken Owens, 1. Wyn Jones 
  • Replacements: 16. Elliot Dee, 17. Rhys Carre, 18. Dillon Lewis, 19. Adam Beard, 20. Ross Moriarty, 21. Tomos Williams, 22. Rhys Patchell, 23. Leigh Halfpenny
France starting XV
  • 15. Maxime Medard, 14. Damian Penaud, 13. Virimi Vakatawa, 12. Gael Fickou, 11. Yoann Huget, 10. Romain Ntamack, 9. Antoine Dupont; 8. Gregory Alldritt, 7. Charles Ollivon, 6. Wenceslas Lauret, 5. Sebastien Vahaamahina, 4. Bernard Le Roux, 3. Rabah Slimani, 2. Guilhem Guirado (captain), 1. Jefferson Poirot 
  • Replacements: 16. Camille Chat, 17. Cyril Baille, 18. Emerick Setiano, 19. Paul Gabrillagues, 20. Louis Picamoles, 21. Baptiste Serin, 22. Camille Lopez, 23. Vincent Rattez

Pundit predictions

The Daily Telegraph: Wales 25 France 20 

“France are volatile and out for revenge - they will be dangerous and Wales will know that. Les Bleus have some superb individuals - on paper they look as good, if not better, than Wales. Nonetheless, Wales’ spirit and gritty determination will be enough to get them through. They have won their only match against ‘Tier one’ opposition this tournament, where they upped their game impressively, and they will be readying themselves for another World Cup semi-final. Prediction: Wales 25 France 20.”

ESPN: Wales by ten points

“The 2019 Grand Slam champions fended off a late charge from Australia earlier on in the tournament and could be in much of the same position against France. Centre Jonathan Davies and fly-half Dan Biggar have been given the all clear to return, and against a France side that looks far from the team that made the final back in 2011. If Wales can keep it together and stay disciplined, they should book a place in the semi-finals.”

Gareth Jones, Sporting Life: Wales to win

“France’s unpredictable flair used to give nightmares to their opponents, but now they lack the skill to execute this game plan to the highest levels required in the big games, and Wales’ simple, perfect execution of their own tactics is what should win out eventually. In the 2011 semi-final Wales lost to France after Sam Warburton’s controversial red card. Expect the Welsh to be fired up for revenge in this one.”

Liam Hyslop, Stuff.co.nz: Wales by seven points

“The French have descended into in-fighting and mutiny, which is just the way they like it at the Rugby World Cup. Still, Wales have looked good so far and should get Dan Biggar back. It’s hard to see anything other than a win for them. Wales by 7.”

Ash Wheldon, The Stats Zone: Wales to win

“Neither Wales nor France have particularly impressed at this RWC so far but the Welsh at least have their win over Australia to work with. They look to have the most improvement in them for this quarter-final clash and they should have too much against a disappointing French outfit. France have looked disjointed so far, perhaps thanks to their chopping and changing of their halfback pairing but they will have little time to adapt in this game and if they find themselves behind early on, they do not appear to have the talent or temperament to respond.”

Tony Mogan, London Evening Standard: Wales 28 France 22

“A couple of major injury boosts for Wales and a couple of major doubts could steer the contest in the favour of Warren Gatland’s side.”

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